Announcements, People

Standing up for the less fortunate - Faculty of Education's Barb MacQuarrie appointed to Order of Ontario

February 03, 2015

Barb MacQuarrie knew she wanted to dedicate her life to helping others as soon as she graduated high-school.

“I had the opportunity to travel to Senegal, in West Africa,” she said. “While I was there I quickly realized the huge inequalities that exist in this world, and knew immediately I wanted to be a part of trying to change that.”

Since that time, MacQuarrie – a researcher with the Faculty of Education and community director of the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children – has spent more than 30 years working to find solutions to inequalities by tirelessly advocating and working in the fields of poverty, violence against women, human rights and social justice.

On February 3, her years of dedication and compassion were officially recognized when she was appointed to the Order of Ontario.

The appointment is the Province’s highest official honour. Created in 1986, the Order of Ontario recognizes any current or former long-time resident of Ontario who has demonstrated a high level of individual excellence and achievement in any field benefiting the people of Ontario, or anywhere in the world.

“When I found out I was a little bit shocked,” said MacQuarrie. “I am honoured and truly humbled to have received such a high commendation, although I don't do any of this vitally important work alone – this award belongs to my colleagues, community partners and my family.”

MacQuarrie’s career in advocacy has spanned more than 30 years. In that time she has worked internationally, advocating for civilians who were threatened by military violence in war-torn regions of the world, and spearheaded a number of provincial and national initiatives to raise awareness about domestic violence and violence against children.

She also helped pave the way for education and policy changes in the Canadian workforce by leading a recent study on the effects of domestic violence in the workplace. The study was the largest of its kind in Canada.

“In that study we found more than one third of workers across the country have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, and for more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work,” said MacQuarrie.

Thanks to MacQuarrie’s study, which was conducted in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress, Labour Unions and governments at local, provincial and national levels are now reassessing the need to educate not only managers and human resources professionals, but all individual in the workplace to recognize and respond to domestic violence.

“Barb is an accomplished, intelligent, and profoundly compassionate person,” said Vicki Schwean, Dean of the Faculty of Education. “Her work has changed the lives of countless numbers of people; we are very privileged to have her as part of our faculty and simply thrilled she has received this outstanding recognition.”

Dr. Peter Jaffe, academic director for the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children nominated MacQuarrie.

“I have known Barb for more than 21 years, and no one is more deserving of such a significant honour,” he said.

Her nomination received international support via written letters from high-ranking executives, lecturers, professors and directors in the fields of social justice, domestic violence and in the labour movement.

The Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, officially appointed MacQuarrie and 26 other appointees to the Order of Ontario at a ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

But as she stood there in Toronto, there was a moment where her thoughts drifted back to Senegal.

“After that trip I was never able to see the world the same way,” she said. “When we are born with privileges, or as we earn them on our way through life, we have a responsibility to use that power to work for a more just world.

That’s what I've tried to do with my career.”